Cuppa Coffee focusing on kids

With natpe opening in New Orleans Jan. 25, pages 33-35 look at some of the new projects coming from Cuppa Coffee Animation, Evening Sky Entertainment, Catalyst Entertainment and Calibre Digital Pictures.

Versions of these stories also appear in the Winter 1999 edition of Playback International.

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Toronto-based Cuppa Coffee Animation is one of Canada’s larger commercial animation shops, but over the past 18 months the studio has revamped its mandate towards long-form kids’ programming. Cuppa Coffee principal Adam Shaheen says they are still working in the commercial sector but are being far more selective as to the projects they take on.

One of Cuppa Coffee’s latest projects is producing $3 million worth of animation on Crashbox, a 26 half-hour series for hbo created by Eamon Harrington and John Watkin of Planet Grande in Malibu.

Crashbox is a game show for nine- to 12-year-olds set in a low-tech computer made up of strange toys, wheels, string and train tracks, as opposed to state-of-the-art digital equipment. Audiences pit their wits against the show’s cast of characters to solve riddles, puzzles and mind games.

Crashbox combines stop-motion animation, claymation, cutouts, cel animation, puppetry and live action.

Planet Grande has sold the rights to the show to hbo and the broadcaster is now looking at producing a second season.

Shaheen says the potential is there for Cuppa Coffee to coproduce the series’ second cycle as opposed to working on a contract basis.

Crashbox has also brought a plethora of other projects to Cuppa Coffee’s doors. HBO Family has asked the animation studio to produce two interstitial Crashbox spin-off programs – Who Knew and Smart Mouth – 60- to 90-second educational segments involving the Crashbox characters.

Cuppa Coffee is also animating HBO Family’s 411 series which offers kids all sorts of helpful hints – from keeping their pet’s water dish cold in summer to easy ways to log on to computers.

Cuppa Coffee has signed an exclusive contract with HBO Family to develop the concepts, branding and promotions of the network. hbo’s initial on-air look was developed by an American company, Hey Design, and Cuppa Coffee is now taking this further, creating an on-air menu and designing the preschool and after-school block.

Shaheen anticipates that this evolving relationship with hbo will lead to opportunities for Cuppa Coffee to produce its own proprietary programs for the kids’ channel.

Cuppa Coffee is also making inroads with The Cartoon Network, producing one of its own series pilots, Clever Trevor, for the American cable channel.

The seven-minute, mixed-media and cel-animated pilot involves an English child transplanted to an American city. The boy loves to daydream and doodle, and each episode involves a different class in school where he conjures up all sorts of imaginings, such as in math class where the geometry sets come to life and cel-animated aliens ride around on eraser-ships.

Cuppa Coffee is working with New York illustrator David Golden on the project.

Each seven-minute episode is budgeted at $250,000 and The Cartoon Network has first option to pick up the series.